Health Encyclopedia

Herpes Simplex Virus Antibody

Does this test have other names?

HSV-1 antibodies, HSV-2 antibodies

What is this test?

The herpes simplex virus antibodies test is a blood test that screens for the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Culturing a sample from an active outbreak of HSV is the best method to diagnose a current infection. But the herpes simplex virus antibodies test can help identify the recurrence of a previous infection.

Why do I need this test?

If you suspect that you have herpes but do not have an active infection, the antibody blood test can help make the diagnosis.

You may also have this test if you have HIV, or are pregnant or hope to become pregnant. The herpes simplex virus antibodies test screens for current or previous HSV infections.

In some cases, the herpes simplex virus antibodies test can be used to diagnose an active HSV infection. But more often, a herpes culture is used.

The antibodies test is valuable because many initial herpes infections show no symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they can include tenderness, as well as pain or burning at the site of the infection. This usually occurs before the outbreak of sores. You may also have headache, fever, achiness, or pain.   

What other tests might I have along with this test?

If you have an active herpes infection, you may also need a physical exam so your doctor can visually inspect the sores. Your doctor may collect a sample from the sores to culture in a lab.

What do my test results mean?

Many things may affect your lab test results. These include the method each lab uses to do the test. Even if your test results are different from the normal value, you may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your health care provider.

If your test result is positive, it can mean that you have an active herpes infection without symptoms. It can also mean that you had an HSV infection in the past. The antibody blood test is not as reliable as culturing a sample from a herpes sore. But in a herpes infection without symptoms, it can be a useful method for finding out if you have an infection. 

How is this test done?

The test requires a blood sample, which is drawn through a needle from a vein in your arm.

Does this test pose any risks?

Taking a blood sample with a needle carries risks that include bleeding, infection, bruising, or feeling dizzy. When the needle pricks your arm, you may feel a slight stinging sensation or pain. Afterward, the site may be slightly sore. 

What might affect my test results?

An antibody test for HSV is not as reliable as culturing a sample from an active herpes outbreak because the results are not always easy to interpret. A positive test result can mean you have an active infection, or simply that you were exposed to the virus at some point in the past.

How do I get ready for this test?

You don't need to prepare for this test.  But be sure your doctor knows about all medicines, herbs, vitamins, and supplements you are taking. This includes medicines that don't need a prescription and any illicit drugs you may use. 



Medical Reviewers:

  • Fraser, Marianne, MSN, RN
  • Sohrabi, Farrokh, MD